Friday, December 23, 2011

Indy | Here's Guild memo on $1K year-end bonuses

Dear Friends,

We want to take a moment to address something that’s been circulating around the newsroom this past week, yet perhaps hasn’t reached every corner. It has created quite a bit of mystery and, in some cases, anger.

We’re talking about the notices that went out last week to a select group of Guild-covered staffers saying they would receive a $1,000 bonus in their Dec. 23 paychecks. We haven’t been given an official number of how many recipients, but it appears to be about 25% of the Guild's membership.

Normally, this would be a cause to celebrate, and indeed we want to give The Indianapolis Star and publisher Karen Crotchfelt their due credit for the holiday largess. After pay cuts and furloughs, it's a welcome change. The problem? To borrow from newspaper jargon, it's the who, what, when, where and why of it all that has raised a few questions.

From what we’ve been able to gather, supervisors were asked to nominate people for the bonuses and a management committee chose the recipients. Crotchfelt and Editor Dennis Ryerson handed out the notices last week, and in some cases, made calls to staffers who were off. The envelopes were distributed somewhat conspicuously in the middle of the newsroom. In at least one instance, a staffer was handed an envelope and told aloud -- within earshot of others who didn’t receive it -- that the envelope contained word about a $1,000 bonus.

To date, we’ve seen no criteria for how these recipients were chosen. The notices refer to Star Media’s Core Value Awards. And most people who received them thought they had won a fourth quarter award. But there was no mention of the bonuses being attached to any specific award. A few people who asked were told they “had a good year” or that they did good work on a specific project. Besides, many good performers were left out. In some cases, certain corners of the newsroom were excluded almost entirely.

Among the recipients of the bonus notices were your Guild President Bobby King, Guild Vice President Adam Yates, Guild Treasurer John Russell and bargaining team member Carl Sygiel. After some consideration, we each have decided independently that we will not keep the bonuses. We intend to put our shares into a pool to benefit the same group of people who benefited from the proceeds of last week’s bake sale, some of our staffers and their families who are struggling the most.

Why are we doing this?

As your leaders, we just don’t feel comfortable accepting this money when so many of our colleagues were excluded and the criteria so nebulous. As people negotiating your next contract, we don’t want to plant any seeds of doubt that we’re only working for some people, or for ourselves. Most of all, we want to preserve the incredible unity that the Guild has built up these past few months. That's one of the reasons we're sharing our decision. We’ve all leafletted together, marched together and worn our red together. We want everyone to be rewarded together. We are greatly concerned that these selective rewards, so conspicuously given, could create divisions and enmity. Could each of us use the cash? Absolutely. But $1,000 isn’t worth the unity of purpose we’ve worked so hard to build.

One last thing. Our action isn't intended to try and suggest what members who received these bonuses should do. So many of you are hurting financially after the last three years that you no doubt could spend this money five times over. You've worked hard. You've earned it. Everyone has. That this could have been handled with more discretion and more equity is not your fault.

As always, feel free to ask any questions.

Carl Sygiel
John Russell
Adam Yates
Bobby King


  1. I have to agree that this sounds suspicious as it was not done at other sites. For those who did not receive a bonus, it's like a double whammy insult.

  2. what's suspicious is that 4 members of the negotiating committee were given bonuses. one has to wonder if that was a calculated move by management during a time of negotiations for a new contract. kudos to those leaders for using theirs to give back to people less fortunate.

  3. That is a very kind and classy move by those four folks...and that they close with no judgment on those who are keeping the money is also admirable.

  4. 1:29 It's a sticky wicket.

    Management has to be careful about giving, or not giving, bonuses to union leaders because the company could be accused of retaliation amid contract talks -- a possible violation of National Labor Relations Board regulations.

  5. I think it's great that they gave out bonuses. Let's hope there is more to come.

  6. A beautiful statement, this. Good to see. More than good... Human. Quite unlike the behavior, even the consciousness, of the captains of this sinking ship.

  7. Nice to get a bonus, how ever after raking furloughs the last 3 tears and no pay raises, why was The Lafayette paper not included in this program. From what I understand out numbers are great, were making money..but who got the bonus,the OC members, the Publisher who is in charge of nothing anymore sense we went to GPS division and I'm sure his executive assistance. So we just keep working harder with no reward, just paycuts and furloughs. I would like to call out the Publisher of the Journal and Courier and the Operations Manager who know works for GPS, these 2 guys are like machines with no feelings for their employees. We are just numbers and our Op Manager is a ruthless SOB who only cares about himself, if he only new how much he is despised by the entire staff at The Courier. He sucks to work for, no at a boys ever, only bitching if a color ad is out of registration only to a glass lens. I only hope he departs sooner than later, people will be much more into their jobs without this a hole not being in the fold. enough I can go on for ever

  8. These are decent people. Merry Christmas to them all.

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